HIGH COURT TO RULE ON "FLEETING OBSCENITIES"
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to rule on Fox's challenge to the FCC's decision on "fleeting obscenities," which held that any utterance of a four-letter word during a live telecast during the hours before 10:00 p.m. is subject to punitive fines. Both Fox -- and network television executives in general -- and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin welcomed the high court's decision to intervene in the matter. Martin maintained that he believes that the government is obliged "to enforce laws restricting indecent language on television and radio when children are in the audience." Fox observed that in "today's diverse media marketplace" parents have "a variety of tools" to protect their children if they so wish. Speaking for the industry, Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, said that it was pleased "that justices will provide badly needed clarity to both broadcasters and policymakers on this critically important First Amendment case."
NEW SHOWS RETURN; AUDIENCES DO NOT
New episodes of CBS's sitcom lineup returned to the air Monday following months of reruns due to the writers' strike, and ABC aired the season debut of its reality hit Dancing With the Stars, and although all of those shows received decent-to-good ratings, they were well off their comparable figures from a year ago. CBS declined 17 percent against last year's numbers for the comparable night. ABC was off 21 percent. For NBC and Fox, the plunge was far deeper, with NBC down 28 percent from last year and Fox, 32 percent. Reporting on the numbers, MediaWeek columnist Marc Berman asked, "Did the recent writers' strike cause permanent damage?" Berman pointed out that while ABC's Dancing With the Stars premiere averaged a solid 13.4 rating and a 21 share, a year ago it opened with a 15.1/22.
APPLE ISSUES CREDITS FOR STRIKE-SHORTENED SERIES
Apple said Monday that it will issue credits to all of its iTunes Store customers who purchased subscriptions to an entire season of a TV series but who discovered that the season was shortened due to the writers' strike. Each "season pass" purchaser, Apple said, will receive vouchers that can be used to purchase any two TV episodes, music videos, or short films. In addition, customers will receive a partial refund for shows that wind up the season with fewer episodes than originally promised.
JOURNALISM -- A TROUBLED PROFESSION, SAYS STUDY
Young people who are thinking of entering the profession of journalism may wish to reconsider after reading the findings of a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. According to a survey of journalists working at national media outlets 62 percent believe their profession "is going in the wrong direction" financially. Those surveyed expressed particular concern about the future of network TV news, with 42 percent saying they expect nightly news broadcasts to survive for 10 years or less.
WALTERS SAYS GLAAD AWARD "MEANS MORE" THAN EMMYS
Barbara Walters, who has won more than her fair share of awards over the years, received one Monday from the gay advocacy group GLAAD for her ABC 20/20 report on transgender children and told the group it was the most important one she had ever received. "You can forget all the Emmys," she said. "This means more to me." Walters shared honors with CBS's 60 Minutes, which received a GLAAD award for a feature titled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," regarding the military's policy on gay and lesbian service members.